CANTON The rivalry between Clarkson and St. Lawrence is one of the longest in college hockey, if not the fiercest.
The series between the north country schools, which dates back to 1925, has been a bit one-sided of late in the Golden Knights favor.
Clarkson has won five of the past six meetings with St. Lawrence, with three consecutive wins, including two in this campaign. Overall, the Golden Knights have forged a 2-6-1 advantage over the Saints in the past four regular seasons.
This doesnt sit well with St. Lawrence (9-10-2, 2-5-2), which will play at Clarkson (4-12-5, 3-5-1) at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the final ECAC Hockey regular-season meeting in 2012-13.
Absolutely, Saints senior captain Kyle Flanagan said. We lost the last two games to them in our barn, so we hope we can return the favor.
This may be the Saints seniors final game against the Golden Knights and their last chance to earn an elusive win against their archrival.
This is definitely big for us seniors, Saints senior defenseman and assistant captain George Hughes said. Its obviously a huge game, not only for the rivalry, but for the standings, as well. I dont think this game could be any bigger for us.
The game is also important for both teams as they bid to move up the conference standings as St. Lawrence enters today in a ninth-place tie and trails Clarkson, which is tied for seventh, by only one point.
These are a big two points, Flanagan said. Obviously its going to be a lot more intense because its against our rival, but as far as our energy level and stuff like that, its about two points thats what we have to take care of. Its a huge game because we can move up in the standings.
The Golden Knights won the first encounter this season, 4-1, in Canton on Dec. 5, with Clarkson scoring the games first three goals.
They came out really strong against us in our league game at Appleton, Carvel said. They jumped on us early and by the time we woke up, we were a couple goals behind.
In the next encounter three days later, St. Lawrence scored first, but then yielded three unanswered goals in a 3-1 loss to Clarkson in Lake Placid.
We need a better start, Flanagan said. From the first period we have to be better. We need to not let them set the tempo.
Their goaltenders played well in both games, St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. Especially in the second game in Lake Placid, I thought their goaltender was the difference in the game.
Carvel hopes the Saints bring better energy and work ethic into this meeting between the two foes, something his team has displayed in winning two of their past games overall this season.
We have to come out and play harder then they do, Carvel said. Because thats what they did to us the past two games. I think were two pretty evenly matched teams and the team that decides it wants to play and work harder has the better chance.
Clearly something has to give between the two teams as Clarkson has lost five consecutive games, all at home.
Conversely, St. Lawrence has lost four of its past five games at Cheel Arena, with its last win a 4-3 decision in December 2009.
I dont think were going to change that much, Hughes said. When you play against Clarkson, its really going to come down to the team that wants it more.
Much of the Saints recent success against their rival has come in the postseason, St. Lawrence swept Clarkson in a first-round playoff series in 2010.
Flanagan concluded: It doesnt take much to get motivated against them. The crowds we had in Lake Placid and at Appleton this season were both packed. The atmosphere is always great. ... So if you dont get up for these games, theres something wrong.
CLIMBING UP ECAC LADDER
Entering today in a ninth-place tie with Brown and Harvard, the Saints are only two points out of sixth place and just five points out of third.
A win against Clarkson would move them past the Golden Knights in the standings.
Were viewing this game as a must win, Carvel said. Were getting to the point of the season where were a desperate hockey team and we cant afford not giving our best game every night.
Last season, St. Lawrence made a push in the second half of the season which included a pair of four-game winning streaks, with one in January and the other in February, to finish in eighth place. That earned the Saints home ice in a first-round playoff series against Dartmouth.
Since weve been back from break, I think weve played some pretty solid hockey, Hughes said. It hasnt been perfect, but it would be great to go on a run like last year. I think if we just keep playing well and limit our mistakes, I think its going to be good for us.
Sportswriter Chris Fitz Gerald covers St. Lawrence University hockey for the Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org